Cafe serves up a treat despite coronavirus challenge

Ross Higgins and Katherine MacKenzie of Taste of Argyll Kitchen, Argyll Street, Oban

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A new cafe in Oban is just one of the many business success stories of the coronavirus lockdown.

On March 15, Taste of Argyll Kitchen opened for the first time at the former Abbie’s Cafe in Argyll Street after a major refurbishment and plans to seat up to 16 customers.

But on March 23, the coronavirus lockdown closed its doors, although that did not deter owner Katherine MacKenzie and partner Ross Higgins.

Within a fortnight, they had launched a weekend takeaway service, extending it to takeaway bites and coffees.

Katherine is now looking forward to welcoming back customers. She said: ‘We just had to adapt and change to takeaway. We started to do Chinese takeaway with local Langoustines from the fishermen.

‘All the fishermen were selling Langoustines locally, so because Ross was a fishermen we contacted a couple of them, and then as it took off, we started doing chicken curries and Highland Burgers and things on the cafe menu.’

Ross said: ‘In a way, lockdown helped give people the chance to try our food.’

If demand for the takeaway continues it will remain even when the cafe fully opens, expected from July 15.

The cafe kitchen menu could not be more local either – relying on beef, pork, lamb and eggs all reared at their Duntarrin Farm, Lerags. Even the takeaway drinks are local from herbal Kerrera tea to locally-roasted Hinba coffee from the Isle of Seil.

The couple said Waltons of Oban had proved a ‘god send’ as had a volunteer delivery driver who had collected weekly shop orders for those self-isolating.

‘Everybody has helped everybody. It’s great how the community has really stuck together, including the public and other business owners. We just want to thank people who have used us. We really, really appreciate it and glad they gave us a try.’

Regular customer Marie MacDougall has been along for a takeaway coffee and has ordered food to take away, and she declared the food ‘fantastic’.

The cafe runs alongside the existing Taste of Argyll food shop on Combie Street which showcases around 40 local producers from Mull Cheese, Isle of Ghia Milk and Mara Seaweed, alongside locally-caught fish and homemade craft products.